The spread of carbapenemase-producing bacteria in Africa: a systematic review

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2015 Jan;70(1):23-40. doi: 10.1093/jac/dku356. Epub 2014 Sep 26.


Background: Carbapenems are the last line of defence against ever more prevalent MDR Gram-negative bacteria, but their efficacy is threatened worldwide by bacteria that produce carbapenemase enzymes. The epidemiology of bacteria producing carbapenemases has been described in considerable detail in Europe, North America and Asia; however, little is known about their spread and clinical relevance in Africa.

Methods: We systematically searched in PubMed, EBSCOhost, Web of Science, Scopus, Elsevier Masson Consulte and African Journals Online, international conference proceedings, published theses and dissertations for studies reporting on carbapenemase-producing bacteria in Africa. We included articles published in English or French up to 28 February 2014. We calculated the prevalence of carbapenemase producers only including studies where the total number of isolates tested was at least 30.

Results: Eighty-three studies were included and analysed. Most studies were conducted in North Africa (74%, 61/83), followed by Southern Africa (12%, 10/83), especially South Africa (90%, 9/10), West Africa (8%, 7/83) and East Africa (6%, 6/83). Carbapenemase-producing bacteria were isolated from humans, the hospital environment and community environmental water samples, but not from animals. The prevalence of carbapenemase-producing isolates in hospital settings ranged from 2.3% to 67.7% in North Africa and from 9% to 60% in sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusions: Carbapenemase-producing bacteria have been described in many African countries; however, their prevalence is poorly defined and has not been systematically studied. Antibiotic stewardship and surveillance systems, including molecular detection and genotyping of resistant isolates, should be implemented to monitor and reduce the spread of carbapenemase-producing bacteria.

Keywords: Gram-negative; antibiotic resistance; epidemiology; β-lactamase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / epidemiology*
  • Gram-Negative Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • beta-Lactamases / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • beta-Lactamases
  • carbapenemase